As a codgerly croupier in Eddie Murphy’s Harlem Nights, foul-mouthed comic Redd Foxx merrily flouts the law and—in true Hollywood fashion—never gets caught. But in real life, it seems, the law has had the last laugh. Fed up with Foxx’s failure to pay $755,166.21 in back taxes, IRS agents raided his three-bedroom Las Vegas home, carting off cars and furniture and nearly everything else they could cram into their trucks. “They took my necklace and the ID bracelet off my wrist and the money out of my pocket,” says Foxx, 67. “I was treated like I wasn’t human.”
Looking forlorn amid the rejected junk scattered across his floor, Foxx, the star of the ’70s hit Sanford and Son, cannot muster any of the defiant energy that once made him one of TV’s highest-paid actors. “I’ve done nothing to deserve this,” he moans, claiming that he has been paying off his tax debt with the $15,000 to $20,000 he earns each week performing at the Hacienda Hotel at the end of the Vegas Strip. Foxx speculates that the agency is after his reported $500,000 Harlem Nights fee. “They’re mad about the money I made on the movie,” he says.
The IRS won’t comment, except to say, “This is how we gather taxes,” but it isn’t the first time that Foxx has come to grief over his finances. Although he once earned $4 million in a single year, he depleted his fortune with a lavish life-style, exacerbated by what he calls “very bad management.” His fiscal woes included a $300,000 divorce settlement to his third wife in 1981. The next year he had to ante up $25,000 for a hotel employee who charged that he had screamed obscenities at her. Finally, in 1983, he began bankruptcy proceedings, which are still unresolved.
Foxx has only 30 to 45 days to square accounts and prevent the auction of his belongings, including his $200,000 home. Though he counts many rich folk among his cronies, “People I thought were my friends haven’t contacted me,” says Foxx, bitterly. So far, he has received $200 from a neighbor, $83 from local high school kids and $10 scraped together by customers at one of his shows.
Onstage at the Hacienda, Foxx still deals out his usual slurry of scatology, making only one lame pass at the IRS, which he says stands for “inconsiderate, rude s—heads.” The audience murmurs agreement, but there’s only one four-letter word that can help Foxx now: cash.